With 26 seconds left on the clock and the UR men’s basketball team holding a 14-point lead over the Emory University Eagles, head coach Mike Neer called a timeout and put all five of his seniors on the floor for the final seconds of their last regular-season home game. This group has been a reason for the ‘Jackets’ success this year, helping UR to a 19-5 record and a No. 15 ranking in the most recent d3hoops.com poll. This past weekend, when the ‘Jackets played host to the Case Western Reserve University Spartans on Friday and Emory on Sunday, was no exception.

Against the Spartans on Friday night, UR propelled itself to a 75-56 victory thanks to a dominant second half. In the first 20 minutes of the game, the ‘Jackets were plagued by sloppy play on the offensive boards and poor shooting from the floor. Case led by as many as three early on but was unable to really exploit UR’s offensive struggles.

The lead changed back and forth between the two teams eight times before halftime. Four points from junior guard Mike Chmielowiec and a layup from senior forward Uche Ndubizu in the final five minutes of the half were key to the ‘Jackets taking a 1-point lead going into halftime. Chmielowiec finished the half with 10 points, and senior guard Jeff Juron scored all nine of his points and contributed three assists in the first 20 minutes of play. Senior guard Rob Dominiak, senior center Jon Onyiriuka and Ndubizu, however, combined for only 11 points in the first, and the ‘Jackets shot just 36.7 percent from the field as a team.

It was a different story after halftime. UR went on a 15-4 run to begin the second, led by Dominiak, who scored eight of the 15. The run gave UR a 10-point lead and put them in control.

The ‘Jackets extended their lead to 12 when sophomore guard Brad Runco hit a 3-pointer with just under 10 minutes to play, and a three from freshman guard Mike Labanowski two minutes later pushed the advantage to 15. UR gained a 22-point lead – its largest of the night – thanks to a layup from sophomore forward Derrick Fetzer with seven seconds left in the game.

Dominiak led all players with 16 points, 12 of which came after halftime. Ndubizu added 11 points, and Onyiriuka contributed 12 rebounds. Chmielowiec finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds and five assists.

On Sunday, Dominiak, Onyiriuka and Chmielowiec led UR past the Eagles, combining for 50 points in the ‘Jackets’ 76-63 win. The win avenged the overtime loss UR suffered earlier this year at Emory and was a testament to the ‘Jackets’ ability to shoot the 3-ball. Dominiak was superb throughout the game, shooting especially well off of screens. He went six for 10 from behind the arc and, again, led all players in scoring with 20 points.

Like Friday, UR struggled early on. Emory jumped out to a 4-0 lead on back-to-back layups and went up by as many as five points in the first five minutes of play. With 14:29 left in the half, however, senior forward Dan Milbrand’s layup gave the ‘Jackets a lead that they did not relinquish for the remainder of the game. Onyiriuka’s jumper with 7:04 remaining gave UR a 5-point lead and started what would eventually be a 19-3 run in favor of the ‘Jackets to finish the half. During that stretch, Dominiak extended UR’s lead to 15 by hitting three 3-pointers in a row. A layup by Chmielowiec with a minute remaining before halftime gave UR a 19-point advantage.

In the second half, the ‘Jackets’ lead never dipped below nine. UR got good minutes out of freshman center Marcus Roberson, who, along with Milbrand, Onyiriuka and Ndubizu, did a good job of out-muscling the Emory players and controlling the interior.

The ‘Jackets held a 32-20 advantage over the Eagles in points in the paint and out-rebounded the visiting team, 32-26. Onyiriuka finished the game with 14 points and nine rebounds. Ndubizu added nine points and seven rebounds, and Chmielowiec scored 16 points, including nine to lead UR in the second half. Junior guard Max Kaplan added a game-high six assists for the ‘Jackets.

Dominiak’s six 3-pointers gave him 78 on the year, tying the UR record for 3-pointers in a season. Dominiak also leads the ‘Jackets in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game, and has led the team in scoring in 12 games.

Throughout his career, Dominiak has also registered an excellent field goal percentage. His numbers this year are astounding – he averages a little over 50 percent from the field, including 49 percent from behind the arc.

Dominiak, however, is not the only notable senior for the Yellowjackets this season. Ndubizu, averaging 12.7 points per game, shoots 65.8 percent from the floor, while Onyiriuka, a four-year starter who became the 23rd player in UR history to score 1,000 points earlier this season, averages 12.3 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game.

Milbrand is second on the team in blocked shots and third on the team in rebounds per game. His energy off the bench this season has been instrumental for UR. Juron has been a consistent presence for the ‘Jackets this year, dishing out an average of 3.6 assists per game. He has gotten to the line the more than any other ‘Jacket guard this season and has been reliable from the mark, averaging 79 percent on the season.

With the two wins this weekend, UR improves to 8-5 in the University Athletic Association, moving into fourth place behind University of Chicago and Washington University in St. Louis, who sit atop the UAA with 10-3 records, and Brandeis University, currently in third with a 9-4 conference record.

The ‘Jackets finish their regular season this Saturday when they travel to Carnegie Mellon University to take on the Tartans at 4 p.m. NCAA tournament selections will be announced on Monday morning and first-round games are played on March 6 or 7, depending on seeding.

Hilfinger is a member of the class of 2010.

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